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Sean Penn: No Madonna Vote

Sean Penn: No Madonna Vote | Julianne Moore Can See; Cate Blanchett's Magic; Daniel Day-Lewis Sings; Eva Desperate for a Break; Panda-Monium

Sean Penn: No Madonna Vote

Sean Penn isn’t going to make life easy for anyone at this year’s Cannes Film Festival as head juror. But at least he won’t have to recuse himself from voting on ex-wife Madonna’s documentary about Africa. It’s not being shown in competition.

Penn, nevertheless, is going to have an interesting time of it here.

He may be the first juror in the history of the festival to have at least one bodyguard with him at all times.

He also has his publicist — still cheerful after her first day of the 10-day adventure — by his side. He’s known to make or provoke interesting comments, some of which may need interpretation not just in French, but in English.

Penn’s publicist may literally have to put out fires. He also broke the French indoor smoking ban a few times, first at the press conference introducing the jury, then later inside the Carlton Hotel dining room at the private dinner for the jury, the cast of "Blindness," the opening night film and the top guests and luminaries.

Audiences this week as well as filmmakers should be warned: Penn’s enthusiasm for a certain movie in competition may only be indicated by puffs of smoke, sort of like the selection of a new pope.

And there’s more to come. Both his current wife and his ex-wife arrive on Friday, which may create more drama than in any film here this year.

Robin Wright Penn, from whom he was nearly divorced in the last six months (they are now back together), arrives shortly. She co-stars with Robert De Niro in the closing-night film (next week) directed by Barry Levinson, called "What Just Happened?" It’s a satire about a Hollywood agent in the middle of divorcing his third wife.

Arriving on Friday, however, is Penn’s first wife, Madonna, who’s coming to co-host AmFar’s Cinema Against AIDS dinner with Sharon Stone, show the documentary she made about discovering poverty in Africa and hit a lot of parties. Luckily, the documentary isn’t in competition so Penn won’t have to deal with it in a formal way.

That would be enough, you’d think, to make any man need a cigarette. But into this mix also will come beautiful and intelligent model Petra Nemcova, who’s working with the Creative Coalition.

Penn brought Nemcova with him as a date to several Oscar parties this past winter. Not only that: Nemcova almost certainly will be attending the screening of a documentary about volunteers who went to work in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, which Penn is presenting under his own aegis.

All of these people also should be running into each other at major events, such as Saturday’s Woody Allen premiere, the Vanity Fair party at the Hotel du Cap’s Eden Roc and the Sunday premiere of "Indiana Jones." This will be enough to make the bodyguards and publicists start smoking, too!

This doesn’t even take into account Penn’s several attractive co-jurors, such as 25-year-old Natalie Portman, who looked vibrantly stunning on the red carpet last night at the "Blindness" premiere, along with Alexandra Maria Lara and Marjane Satrapi.

Nevertheless, Penn didn’t seem all that pleased to be lumped in with the other jurors during the red carpet presentation. He grimaced during group photos, then broke away from the gang and climbed the red carpeted stairs alone to be photographed with the heads of the festival.

Jury deliberations may make "12 Angry Men" seem more like "Mystic River" than "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Again, proper ventilation may be required.

Still, this isn’t to say that Penn won’t prove to be an excellent Cannes head juror. His taste in film is excellent. As a director, he’s made wonderful movies such as "Into the Wild" and "The Crossing Guard." His thoughts on the films selected by the Cannes screening committees will be most incisive and welcome.

Julianne Moore Can See; Cate Blanchett's Magic; Daniel Day-Lewis Sings; Eva Desperate for a Break; Panda-Monium

A movie in which everyone in a city goes blind except Julianne Moore seems a little strange. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

A lot of people here didn’t go crazy for the opening night film, "Blindness," directed by Fernando Merielles. I must say I loved a lot of it, this thought-provoking thriller that co-stars Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, Gael Garcia Bernal and a large supporting cast that also includes Maury Chaykin and Don McKellar, who wrote the screenplay.

McKellar’s worked on this post-apocalyptic story adapted from a novel by Jose Saramago for almost 10 years. It’s kind of a sequel to one of my favorite films, McKellar’s little gem called "Last Night," with Sandra Oh.

"Blindness" is rough-going and not always for the faint of heart. But Mereilles and McKellar are up to a lot here, and if it’s released properly, "Blindness" could find a cult audience. The performances, of course, are all excellent. Moore is luminous. Ruffalo does some of his best work.

And Merielles ("City of God," "Constant Gardener") is full of little surprises. When Ruffalo loses his eyesight, for example, Merielles nearly cuts the actor’s head out of the frame. It’s one of many neat touches. ...

At Wednesday night’s premiere, I had a nice chat with Eva Longoria Parker of "Desperate Housewives." She despaired of not getting to see any films — she’s working for L’Oreal, as she does every year, making appearances and looking smokin’.

Longoria — a regular tabloid presence — was unexpectedly delightful. She’s funny and beautiful, which isn’t a bad combo. She told me Dana Delany will be back on the show next season, which is great news. The bad news?

"We only have a few weeks off, then we’re back to work," Eva said.

She and her hubby, Tony Parker, will putter around their Hollywood mansion and try to keep busy being fabulous. ...

Cate Blanchett is here and causing a stir. Why? She had her third child three weeks ago and looks like nothing happened. She’s such a good actress! She came to the premiere with her manager while her mom looks after the baby and husband, Andrew Upton, supervises their two other sons.

Blanchett is ready for Sunday’s premiere of "Indiana Jones," in which she plays the villainess. "I still can’t believe I’m part of it," she said. ...

No one can figure out what’s happened to Javier Bardem. The Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winner isn’t coming to the Woody Allen premiere, even though he’s the star. He’s also dropped out of the film-musical "Nine," a role that seemed custom-made for him. Where in the world is Javier? His "Nine" replacement has been named: Daniel Day-Lewis.

"Nine" is a musical. But I am told by insiders that DDL, who is a chameleon, sent a tape to director Rob Marshall and that "everyone was knocked out." Of course, Daniel can sing! Why not? For "Chicago," Marshall turned Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones into songbirds and won Best Picture. So DDL should be a snap! ...

And what would Cannes be without an opening day outdoor stunt from Dreamworks? Last year, Jerry Seinfeld "flew" across the Croisette in a bee costume. Wednesday morning, Jack Black appeared with 40 people wearing panda bear costumes to promote his "Kung Fu Panda" animated film. The bears were hilarious, Black was his usual wild self and Dreamworks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg told me he actually tried on a panda suit.

The movie, which we saw Tuesday night, has great visuals and witty dialogue. Dustin Hoffman is a hoot as Black’s equivalent Yoda. Call it "The Karate Kid" with animals. Kids will love it. And parents will be amused enough to stay awake till the end. ...

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